Top ten cel-shaded video games

Posted By | On 21st, Feb. 2011 Under Feature | Follow This Author @GNReith

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We gamers seem to have an odd obsession with realism. We constantly anticipate the next generation of hardware so that we can create more and more life-like graphics. Yet, the nature of our medium allows for much more creativity than simply imitating real life. As a result I want to pay a brief homage to ten games that brought the bright and vivid world of cel-shaded visuals to the fore of gaming. As always, I don’t have a completely encyclopedic knowledge of all games in the world, so if I’ve missed out any real beasts from this list then let us know in the comments section below.

10. Eternal Sonata

Eternal Sonata was a game that was unique in many ways. Any JRPG based in the mind of Romantic composer Chopin certainly deserves your attention, but its clever subversion of the standard turn based formula used in JRPGs also made it a refreshing take on the usual Hero’s Quest paradigm. What made the game stand out most from a first view was its cel-shading. The bizarre musically infused world was brilliantly brought to life by the game’s visual style, earning Eternal Sonata a solid place on this list.

9. Sly Raccoon

It might not be the best looking game on the list, but it stands as a textbook definition of how to do cel-shaded visuals. Sly Raccoon (or Sly Cooper for our American readers) was one of the first games to jump on the cel-shaded band wagon, but it just epitomises what the visual style can bring to a game. Sly was one of the most vibrant, colourful and down right fun games on the PS2, and this was in no small part due to its incredible cel-shaded graphics.


Most of the games on this list match their cel-shaded graphics with a cute and cartoon style XIII is notable for its juxtaposition of a bright and vibrant comic book visual style with a rather disturbing plot of conspiracy, deception and repressed memories. Not only were the graphics a real treat for the time, but they were also integral to the gameplay, with your character being able to see the “tap” of enemy footsteps during the game’s many stealth sections. The game didn’t sell as well as it deserved, but it still remains one of the best examples of what cel-shaded visuals can do. Thanks to Alanpr016 for the video.

7. Dragon Quest VIII

The Dragon Quest series has always given us adventures of an epic scale. Yet, with the first seven entries in the series being played from a top down 2D perspective, Dragon Quest VIII was the first fully 3D game in the franchise. The vistas and landscapes really helped to take your breath away and they were well realised through the game’s cel-shaded graphics engine. The animé style aesthetic also helped to compliment Akira Toriyama’s characteristically strong character designs, making DQVIII one of the most enjoyably traditional experiences on PS2.

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  • Its ok if something is missed here and there. The article is impressive mainly because many things are covered.

  • This list is missing Viewtful Joe and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil. Honorable Mention goes to Ultimate Spider-man.

  • tareq salah

    sly-naruto and madworld were amazing in terms of art design.

  • Doesn’t anyone remember Jet Set Radio?

    • I do. I’m not going to get upset that neither Jet Grind Radio or Jet Set Radio Future made the list as Jet Grind Radio was a big reason that Cel-Shading was accepted in the United States period.

  • I would have replaced any of those games with No More Heroes! Good list nonetheless though.

  • uhhh, Street fighter IV isn’t Cell-Shaded

  • a

    tales of vesperia???

  • Brian R.

    While I loved Borderlands it barely qualifies as a cel shaded game Its similar to crackdown it’s more on the realistic side compared to a cartoon.

  • GuNStArHeRo

    how can you have a top 10 cel-shaded video games list without Jet Grind Radio? maybe you should change the title to “my top 10 cel-shaded video game list”.

  • Mav Attack

    This is a great list!

    Check out my list if you guys are interested! You won’t be dissapointed!

  • JAYz

    no jet set radio? jesus this game is the father of cel shading games.

  • eric_s07

    People should understand that It’s really difficult to write a list like this without making some sort of compromise. Still, I think the list above has some terrific games even when I haven’t had a chance to play all of them.

    By the way, I worked on a two-part article for my website. Here are the links in case you’d like to see what I came up with:

    Best Cel-Shaded Games – Part I:
    Best Cel-Shaded Games – Part II:


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